Donald Trump

Donald Trump As Alfred E. Neuman's Slightly Smarter Brother

Just because he might be president doesn't mean he's not a joke.

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Trump campaign

Halfway through a New York Times story about why people vote for Donald Trump, I found a rationale I could almost embrace:

"This isn't about whether he's going to do a better job or not," said Ken Magno, 69, leaving his polling place in Everett, Mass., Tuesday morning, wearing a red Donald Trump winter hat. "More or less, it's the statement: Listen, we're sick and tired of what you people do. And we're going to put somebody in there—now that it's our choice, we're going to put somebody in there that basically you don't like."

Why vote for Trump? Fuck you, that's why. Although I don't know the specifics of Magno's grievances against the powers that be, I rather admire his anti-establishment nihilism. And perhaps this is the best way to think of Trump: as Alfred E. Neuman's slightly smarter older brother. In that light, it makes perfect sense that Kinky Friedman—the singer/songwriter/humorist/novelist who ran for governor of Texas in 2006 under the slogan "Kinky for Governor: Why the Hell Not?"—is reportedly "drawn to Mr. Trump's unconventional message." Friedman told the Times he admired Ted Cruz but did not think the Texas senator would win the Republican nomination. "Trump is obviously going to be the nominee," he said. "Long may he wave."

I don't know whether Friedman was serious. I am also not sure about Trump. My initial impression was that he ran for president as a goof and was surprised (along with the rest of us) to see how well he did. After dismissing him as a joke, I started to take him more seriously, which was probably a mistake. He is a joke, and the fact that he could actually be our next president does not change that fact.

The little videos that Trump made before the New Hampshire primary conclusively demonstrate that he should not be taken seriously. Here is Trump on "competent leadership":

Our country needs competency. We need a smart president. We need a great leader….If I'm elected president, I will do a truly great job.

Here he is on the "drug epidemic":

I'm going to create borders. No drugs are coming in. We're gonna build a wall. You know what I'm talking about. You have confidence in me. Believe me, I will solve the problem.

On immigration:

We will build a wall. It will be a Great Wall. It will do what it's supposed to do: keep illegal immigrants out.

On the military:

I'm gonna make our military so powerful, so strong, that nobody—absolutely nobody—is gonna mess with us….We're gonna get rid of ISIS. We're gonna get rid of 'em fast.

On jobs:

I can tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs-producing president that God ever created.

On taxes:

Everybody's taxes is going down.

On "unifying the nation":

Our country is totally divided. There's so much hatred. There's so many problems. Our president was a terible unifier. He was the opposite of a unifier. He was a divider. I will unify and bring our country back together. It's something I've done all my life. I get along with people. 

Statements like those (especially that last one) make me wonder whether Trump is putting us on. Although he brags about being a "nonpolitician," he is actually a parody of a smarmy, unprincipled panderer, making promises he can't possibly keep while avoiding the details that would give him away. Which is pretty funny. Judging from the Trump voters interviewed by the Times, who seem to be motivated less by faith in him than by disgust with everyone else, a lot of them are in on the joke.

Trump's success is deeply embarrassing to actual Republicans, which only makes it funnier. In the unlikely event that he defeats Hillary Clinton in November, that would be hilarious. Can you imagine? That prospect may well be worth letting a political neophyte with no firm convictions pick Supreme Court justices and command the world's most powerful military (so powerful, so strong that nobody is gonna mess with him). Clinton certainly has not shown herself to be any more trustworthy for either of those tasks.

Even if Trump doesn't win, I am looking forward to the debates. As the Times delicately puts it, "the tactics the Clintons have used for years to take down opponents may fall short in a contest between the blunt and unpredictable Mr. Trump and the cautious and scripted Mrs. Clinton: a matchup that operatives on both sides predicted would be an epic, ugly clash between two vastly disparate politicians." It may be time to relax and enjoy the show.